A family-friendly image is still a cornerstone of supermarket rental departments. But many have grown up into full-scale video shops where customers expect to find popular R-rated movies, even the more controversial titles. For example, last fall, many retailers brought in large quantities of "Pulp Fiction" and some even carried "Showgirls" last spring. Most would not have carried these titles a few years ago. "Now people accept the fact that if we are going to be a video store, we need to have everything that should be available," said Tom Hembree, vice president of operations at K-VA-T Food Stores, Grundy, Va. Chains are as aware of the complaints they get when they don't have a controversial movie as the ones received when they do. "Most of the people who would rent it never really voice their opinion over the one or two who have a hard time with it," said Rick Ang, buyer at Video Mart, Sacramento, Calif., which racks video departments in 17 Bel Air supermarkets in the Sacramento area. Even more than ratings, supermarket video executives have to pay attention to the box art on certain titles. "That's what the kids see on the shelves as they shop with mom and dad. That's important to me," said Clifford Feiock, video coordinator at Nash Finch Co., Minneapolis. Also important is how clerks deal with children who try to rent R-rated movies. "You have to be careful about how your clerks handle things, so they don't let a 13-year-old take out an R-rated movie that mom's not aware of," said Jeff Olson, video specialist at Copps Corp., Stevens Point, Wis. Here's what the roundtable participants had to say about R-rated movies in supermarket video rental departments:
re not going to buckle!" With a title like "Kids" though, there were no complaints on something that I felt should have had some. SN: Does upper management get involved in this process, for example, with guidelines of some kind? WEDDINGTON: I use a survey to get some opinions besides my own. FEIOCK: I don't ask. WEDDINGTON: I think you are right on "Kids." I think the educational value wasn't quite as strong for a theme that important. FEIOCK: After watching it, I just thought it was much more controversial. But what is more important to me than the R rating is the box art. As I meet with studio reps, I ask them over and over and over that they provide us with supermarket box art. I look more at box art than at ratings because that's what the kids see on the shelves as they shop with mom and dad. WEDDINGTON: Even more than the controversial box art, I'm concerned with deceptive and misleading box art that is targeted completely to the wrong audience. FEIOCK: You have to investigate the content of all of those movies and you can't buy something based on its box art alone. SN: Does the region of the country you are in make a difference in terms of these sensitivities? HEMBREE: Probably it does. But in our area we haven't had a problem with that in several years. OLSON: You have to be careful about how your clerks handle things so they don't let a 13-year-old take out an R-rated movie that mom's not aware of. That's a matter of properly training the clerks, their good judgment and having some guidelines set up so they know how to handle it so there aren't any surprises at home. HEMBREE: There are systems available now that you can program so that kids can't rent certain titles. For example, in our system, we have the kids' names and whether they can and can't rent certain titles. FEIOCK: I think even more important though is stressing that mom and dad would have to come in to rent it. They shouldn't have to, but in our markets, we find that we do. It's an opportunity to advise mom that she shouldn't show a movie to her 12-year-old unless she looks at it first. We try to do that as much as we possibly can, but we come across people who feel you're bothering them.
ANG: Have you ever had problems with animated movies geared toward adults? FEIOCK: We have to be very careful. ANG: So are you going to bring in "Heavy Metal" for rental? FEIOCK: Probably not until I get a chance to see it. There are no screener copies out there, so I guess I'm undecided at this point.